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The Old Manchu Chronicles

Note on the English translation of The Old Manchu ChroniclesMark C. Elliott, EditorThe Old Manchu Chronicles, more commonly known as the Manbun rōtō or the Manwen laodang, constitute the annals of the Manchu (Jurchen) state in the first part of the seventeenth century.As such, they are the most valuable single original source on the early history of the Qing dynasty (1636-1912).The need for a complete and reliable English translation of The Old Manchu Chronicles seems obvious, particularly given the renascent interest in the Inner Asian roots of the Qing.This translation aims to meet that need.The Chronicles are composed entirely in the Manchu language.Their original title is tongki fuka sindaha hergen-i dangse, or “records in the script with dots and circles added.”This script, often referred to as the “pointed script,” was devised in the course of the 1620s and 1630s and makes use of diacritical marks to clearly differentiate certain vowel and consonant sounds.It was based on the unpointed script, i.e., that without dots and circles (tongki fuka akū hergen), which was borrowed from Mongolian at some point no later than 1599.(Prior to 1599 there was no system for writing Manchu.)The abbreviation RPS will be used in this translation for the title “Records in the Pointed Script.”These materials have long been available in an annotated, complete, and authoritative Japanese translation, which reproduces in transcription the Manchu text.1This translation is based on the version of the Chronicles recopied in 1778 from an earlier set produced in 1775, and stored in the Chongmo ge 崇謨閣 in the Qing palace at Mukden (modern Shenyang), where they were discovered in 1905 by Naitō Torajiro.Under Naitō’s direction they were photographed there in 1912.The plates were brought to Japan and remain in the possession of Kyoto University.The original text must be presumed today to be part of the collection of the Shenyang Palace Museum.A Chinese translation is also available, though regrettably without notes of any kind and without the reproduction of the original text.2This translation is based on the version of the Chronicles that was recopied in 1775 on the orders of the Qianlong emperor and kept thereafter in the vault of the Grand Secretariat (neige daku 內閣大庫).It is now in the First Historical Archives, Beijing.This 1775 copy was itself based upon the original, unpointed, version of the Chronicles produced in the years before the Qing conquest.This original version, known widely as the Jiu Manzhou dang (JMD) is presently housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.It has been published twice in facsimile, once in 1969 and again in 2005.Because The Old Manchu Chronicles is a lengthy work, it can be expected that it will be a matter of several years before it is complete.The translators have decided that it would be best to make available the translations of individual chapters of the work as they are finished.Thus the passage of time will see the addition of further chapters on this site.The translation is the work of the following people (in alphabetical order): David Brophy, Natalie Köhle, Max Oidtmann, Jonathan Schlesinger, Brian Tawney, and Kwanghoon Yu, under the editorial supervision of Mark Elliott.Comments and corrections are welcome, and should be directed to the webmaster or directly to the editor at

The Old Manchu Chronicles(2)
 Note on the English translation of The Old Manchu Chronicles(2)Users of these pages should please note the following information: The text used for this translation is that published in seven volumes by Kanda Nobuo et al., in Manbun rōtō 滿文老檔/Tongki fuka sindaha hergen i dangse. The full text is also available electronically at It  Proper names and special terms and titles, e.g., Sure Kundulen Khan, amban, niru, remain for the most part untranslated. Similarly, terms liable to multiple meanings, e.g., gurun, banjiha doro, etc., are also left untranslated or, when translated, are also provided in brackets.  Page numbers in the original text are indicated in smaller type within parentheses, thus (25). These correspond to the numbers given in the Toyo Bunko edition. Because of the substantial differences in word order between English and Manchu, the placement of these numbers does not always correspond exactly to their placement in the Toyo Bunko edition.  The Romanization system used in transcribing Manchu words and names is that of P.G. von Möllendorff, as modified by Jerry Norman.  Where there are gaps in the original text, this is so indicated.  In those instances where the text seems open to more than one interpretation, the appropriate text is underlined and alternate interpretations are provided in a footnote.  In those instances where the text departs in marked fashion from the text in the Jiu Manzhou dang, this is also indicated by underlined, footnoted text.  There are no paragraphs in the original text. All paragraphing is the result of editorial decision and is done for the convenience of the reader.  Breaks in the original text, usually occurring with a new date, are indicated by a birga-type circle (the symbol used in the original).  Fascicle numbers (e.g., Records in the Pointed Script 1) are those given in the original. There are 81 fascicles covering nineteen years of the reign of Taizu (Nurhaci), from 1607 to 1626, and 99 fascicles for the reign of Taizong (Hong Taiji), the latter being divided between the Tiancong 天聰 and Chongde 崇德 eras, corresponding to 1627-1635 and 1636-1643, respectively. January 2006Last updated August 20061 Manbun rōtō 滿文老檔 /Tongki fuka sindaha hergen i dangse (The secret chronicles of the Manchu dynasty, 1607-1637). 7 volumes. Kanda Nobuo et al., trans. Tokyo: Tōyō Bunko, 1955-1963.